My daughter has been reading up a storm lately. She reads in the car, in her bed, when she's waiting for us to be ready to go somewhere, etc. She's reading so much that it's become a slight challenge, despite all of the books I have in my house, to keep her in books. The reason is something that I should have predicted: she's come to appreciate the power of the series.
We always had some series characters in our read-aloud mix, of course. Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, Elephant & Piggie, Paddington. But the picture book and early reader series is usually about giving kids a familiar character, more than about continuing a storyline. There's not particular need to read the Berenstain Bears books in order, after all (even though the family does change a bit over time). I think that the need for the NEXT book is also developmental on the part of the reader. The Magic Tree House books do feature some story arcs that continue across more than one book. We spent a lot of time over the past couple of years reading those books aloud, and my daughter never cared at all about reading them in order.
But now that she's reading early chapter books on her own, she's suddenly much more aware of the presence of sequels, and the drive to read the whole series in order. The other day she came in from the car, where she had stayed to finish her book after the drive home from karate. She announced: "Mommy, I NEED Nancy Clancy: Secret Admirer" (book 2 of the Fancy Nancy chapter book series). There are stacks and stacks of books in her room and in my office. But having finished the first book in the series, she now needs the second one.
I do understand. I've worked my way through many a series, most recently on audio. The first books that I clearly remember reading on my own are the Little House books. I can remember sitting on the windowsill in my third grade classroom reading them, one after another. I think it's no coincidence that it's a series that I remember first, though clearly I must have read other books on my own prior to those. And I do drop all of the books in my own TBR pile when a new book is released in one of my favorite series.
Of course the publishers understand this fascination that emergent readers have with series books. Most of the books that my daughter is reading include at least a one-page description of the next book, if not a teaser chapter. She especially likes the various Scholastic Branches series, and Scholastic certainly knows how to make the next book, and the next one after that, appealing.
Recently, knowing that my daughter had a plane trip coming up, I bought her the next books in several series that she liked. I stuck them on a shelf in my bedroom, instead of giving them to her, so that she would still have them for the trip. I wanted her to have books with her that I knew she would enjoy. Of course you can all predict what happened. She found the books, and accused me of lying to her, by not giving them to her to read right away. She made off with one of them, over my not all that convincing protests, and started to read. And then I had to go ahead and order the next next books. (OK, I didn't have to. But I am a very soft touch when it comes to books).
For those who are interested, the series that are currently consuming my daughter's attention include:
But of course this list will evolve quickly. I also have the first Ivy and Bean and Ballpark Mysteries (set at Fenway) books on reserve. And we are reading the Clementine books together. So, my reading friends, does this milestone feel familiar to you?